“Success” is such a loaded term. What it means to me is probably very different than what it means to you. But regardless of what it looked like for either of us, I bet we could agree on what it would feel like… expansive, abundant, generative, collaborative, connected…
We don’t live in a vacuum, we exist in relationship. I’d go so far as to say it’s the multitude of relationships that not only defines our identity but the quality of our life. And what defines relationship? The communication that exists within it.
I mentioned a while back that I was in the process of learning all things neuroscience about communication, and immersed in an emerging realm called Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ). After a 7 month training, I’ve become an “Enhanced Skills C-IQ Coach” and am now in process to become a “Certified C-IQ Coach.” What this really means is that I’m exceptionally interested in the science, interactional dynamics, and underlying mechanisms that facilitate effective conversations that can move people from limited fear states to expansive creative states. Because, it’s Conversational Intelligence that differentiates those who are “successful” in all types of relationships from those who are not.
Last week, lucky me had a conversation with the founder of Conversational Intelligence®, Judith E. Glaser, on the critical importance of understanding and growing our C-IQ. In her words: “As we come to know more about the neurochemistry of trust and understand C-IQ to shape our environments for trust simply through conversations, we enable the gifts that make us human and begin to heal the world.”
As I’m learning, practicing, and teaching the principles of C-IQ, I can definitely say this is becoming true of mine.
So, in the spirit of inspiration, I’m sharing part of Judith’s article, The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations, originally published in the Harvard Business Review, to spark some reflection on your own C-IQ and ability to make magic happen in your world.
“Why do negative comments and conversations stick with us so much longer than positive ones? A critique from a boss, a disagreement with a colleague, a fight with a friend – the sting from any of these can make you forget a month’s worth of praise or accord. If you’ve been called lazy, or careless, or a disappointment, you’re likely to remember and internalize it. It’s somehow easier to forget, or discount, all the the times people have said you’re talented or conscientious or that you make them proud.
Chemistry plays a big role in this phenomenon. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive . We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.
Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.
This “chemistry of conversations” is why it’s so critical for all of us – especially managers – to be more mindful about our interactions. Behaviors that increase cortisol levels reduce what I call “Conversational Intelligence” or “C-IQ,” or a person’s ability to connect and think innovatively, empathetically, creatively and strategically with others. Behaviors that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise C-IQ.”
Now, just because this article is titled with “…Positive Conversations” doesn’t mean that managing the chemistry of conversations means being nice all the time. Having positive conversations is just a tiny piece in up-regulating oxytocin. In truth, it’s being able to have the difficult candid conversations without fear of retribution, and being able to maintain neurological and heart coherence with another that really makes the difference. But how does one do that?
For me, there aren’t any questions more important than these. Our quality of life and our ability to show up in the world depends on the trust we create and communication we practice with others. Doesn’t this make you want to dive into understanding the nature of conversations in order to increase your C-IQ?
If you’re just as fascinated by this topic as I am, check out the book Conversational Intelligence to dive in deeper. Leave me a comment and let me know what this has sparked for you, and what you’re doing (and not doing) to mind your C-IQ, on purpose.
I could talk about this stuff for days 🙂
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in Sacramento and San Francisco, CA committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.